Cyrano’s Costume Designer Reveals the Film’s Biggest Challenges

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This story about the design of the “Cyrano” costumes first appeared in the Problem under the line from TheWrap Awards magazine.

The real Cyrano de Bergerac lived in France in the 17th century, and the Edmond Rostand play that immortalized him begins in 1640. But director Joe Wright made the conscious decision to take the action back a century to his new musical “Cyrano”, which stars Peter Dinklage as the poetic swordsman.

“The idea was to recreate Cyrano around the mid-1700s to give a sense of lightness through the costumes,” said costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini. “The 1600s, while a great time to portray, are very fixed and rigid. Setting up a musical in the 1700s allowed us to make everything light and airy at the same time.

Parrini achieved this lightness by using delicate, sheer fabrics inspired by 1700s watercolors he had seen in a museum in Rome. “The colors were so watery and ethereal that I wanted to recreate them through the costumes, using more fabrics on top of each other, with different colors,” he said.

He worked with natural fibers such as silk and linen, as well as fabrics like organza that are “delicate but full-bodied at the same time”. He added, “For me, it’s very important to maintain the criteria of the costume itself while capturing the essence of the historical period that I have to represent.”

Costume design for Cyrano by Peter Dinklage

But Parrini sometimes used costumes that weren’t strictly appropriate for the time. “Bringing modernity to a historical language is very important in understanding costume,” he said. “It’s important to me that the costume is understood even by an audience that knows nothing of the past.”

He also had to be careful with the requirement that costumes had to move with actors suddenly changing into dancers. “I liked using materials that helped me create movement,” he said. “For example, it was wonderful to see the soldiers in their stiff uniforms suddenly become light as air during the dance sequences.”

Costume sketch for the character of De Guiche

His favorite clothes, however, were those he designed for Ben Mendelsohn’s villain De Guiche, while the more difficult designs were for nuns at a convent where Cyrano’s longtime secret love, Roxanne , lives after the death of her husband in battle. (Roxanne’s costumes, played by Haley Bennett, were designed by Jacqueline Durran.)

“The nuns’ costumes were very difficult because I was looking for both modernity and antiquity, they caused me a lot of pain! he said. “The result is beautiful, however, as the nuns are ‘outsiders’ from the 1700s, retaining an authority that the clergy demand.”

Learn more about the number under the line here.

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Photo by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap


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